I don’t exactly recall first meeting Ray, it has to be at least 15 years ago because it was before I had my drivers license (insert old joke here).Â Back then he was in a hardcore band called Grow and played at most local shows I was at.Â We had similar groups of friends but eventually lost touch as the years went past.Â A little more than a year ago I bumped into him and we realized we still had similar groups of friends, and that he picked up photography as a hobby, something I’m very passionate about.
Ray went on to tell me about a project he was working on, a book comprised of photographs shot on various Polaroid cameras.Â The opening night for the art show was at a mutual friends skateboard shop and I marked the calendar.Â Great reception, great one-off prints for sale and good vibes all around.Â It dawned on me at that moment though that more people needed to know about this project.Â Wait a minute, I run a successful blog, I should tell people about it!
After approaching Ray with the idea of an interview and feature and he was down.Â Below is the interview.Â In keeping with the integrity and originality that is Ray, I have made very few grammatical corrections to his replies, I don’t think they were necessary.Â
Randomn3ss: Why photography as a medium? Youâ€™ve been creative with music and painting for so many years, what made you choose photography as your next artistic medium?
Ray: I bought a Polaroid camera awhile ago and just started shooting anything that struck interest in me. Whether it was at a show, a random person , or especially a skate spot. I been wanting to document all the contraptions I build to skate to. Then, it just grew from there.
Randomn3ss: Digital is cheap, fast, some say better and generally more convenient, yet you chose Polaroid instant film and old cameras.Â Why?
Ray: I am a person who is analog. I have analog ways. Plus, it is a Polaroid. The mistakes and or total hits of each picture rule. As forest gump said,â€ Polaroidâ€™s are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!â€™â€™ok, maybe he said life but Polaroids can get thrown in there to.
Randomn3ss: Since Polaroid instant cameras donâ€™t have a lot of photographic control, Iâ€™m sure you must have captured some bad images while shooting.Â What makes a bad Polaroid?Â When do you know you truly have a winner?
Ray: I think everyoneâ€™s interpitation can make a photo good or bad. Sometimes I can be so amped on a picture and then someone would be like, â€˜â€™I canâ€™t believe you shot this. â€˜â€™ â€œIt has so much blah , blah, blah â€œ. IÂ really, never thought of it that way. I love it because of this.
Randomn3ss: You have a book out, Influence Victim, a self published, small run book of photography done on Polaroid.Â Did you start shooting with the intention of making a book or did you think about making the book after you started to shoot?
Ray: well, I just shot once and awhile and one day someone,( no names), said, these are good but I donâ€™t think you can make a book. I went home pissed .Â the next morning I woke up and said, fuck it! I am going to shoot for the rest of a year and make a book.
Randomn3ss: Tell me about the concept of putting a book together on your own.Â When did you know you had enough photos? How did you weed through the bad ones and only show the good ones?Â Are any of the shots preconceived or were they all done spur-of-the-moment and you just happened to have a camera with you?
Ray: the concept of the book is simple. Itâ€™s one year through my eyes. I am a skateboarder, artist, I am in two bands, I work, married, have two dogs and a lot of friends. So, I just wanted to capture each moment I was into at that time.
When did I have enough photos ?
Ray:Â after a box and a half were filled. But, I do chose my shots wisely. Weeding thru them was a pain but I still want to use the other ones in another project down the road.
A lot of the photos I take are spurÂ of the moment. I just go, take a pic and move on. I canâ€™t zoom in on anyone. I have to walk up to them and talk and if they let me shoot a pic, rad. I carried that camera around with me like it was my wallet. Every where, every day.
Randomn3ss: A large number of the images in the book are in portrait format, yet have a very un-composed feel to them.Â Was that important to you?
Ray: I have no idea what you are talking about.Â Really. I just shoot and go. I just see something and I have to shoot it. I never went to aÂ photography school or art school.
Randomn3ss: I know a fair amount of people in the book, but the ones I donâ€™t know are even more appealing, the way you shot them makes me curious about their story.Â Was this done intentionally?
Ray: Not intentionally. A lot of people ignore what takes place on a daily basis. The people they pass or the places they see. As a skateboarder, you are always on the lookout for skatespots. So, I took that and just drove around looking for people. Some were happy that they were having their picture taken. It almost felt like they were amped that they were noticed by some guy and he wanted to take their picture. A few instances, the photo looked so good, I took two and gave the person the other one.
Randomn3ss:Â You put this whole book together by yourself.Â That is to say, no one funded it, did the layout for you, chose the layout, etc.Â How difficult was it?Â Would you consider doing another book?Â Would you suggest other photographers to self-publish?
Ray: I be lieing if I said I did it all by myself.Â I had chris horn scan all the photos. A chore in itself. And Andrew Po gave me suggestions on how to put it together. Andy and I would start the format we both agreed on and then he just be like, alright, I have shit to do, yell for help if you need it. And it was my first time laying something out on a computer. I can do emails but a real layout and what not. Like I said before, this guy , ray, is analog. Actually, when we got the samples back, I had to lay the book out beginning to end again . so many late nights.
This book was funded by myself . I almost tried a publisher but I felt I could get more feeling of accomplishment if I self published it. This book was a challenge and I survived. So, with this one under my belt, I am thinkingÂ of my next project.Â It will be with a Polaroid or with 35mm.
Randomn3ss: And my suggestion for other photographers to self publish?
Ray: In life, donâ€™t be that person who said I should have. I personally, hate that. Be that person who tries and if you fail, fuck it. You tried.
Randomn3ss:Â Whatâ€™s in the future for Ray Gurz artistically?Â What can we expect to see?
Ray: I am planning out my next project right now. At least a more narrowed down topic. Another book for sure. I am planning on doing a zine of photos as well.Â And I have recently bought lost soul skateboards. I was pro for them before the purchase. The owner was planning on selling it and I , once again said fuck it, and now I own a skateboard company. So I will be doing more artwork for the boards and the rest of the line.
Randomn3ss: Any shout-outs, thanks, etc.?
Ray: a big shout out to you Mike, Andy Po/ Homebase Skateshop , Chris horn and my wife Michele. She , along with a lot of my close friends,Â were down for the idea and gave me support to finish it. A huge shout out to John / Keystone digital printing for helping me out with this.
Ray’s book, Influence Victim can be purchased on his blog, Broken American – click the BUY NOW button in the top right corner, pay via Paypal, tell him you heard about it from Randomn3ss, wait for it to come in the mail, enjoy it over and over again.Â There are also several original Polaroids for sale and a small number of enlargements, which can be seen in these photos from the art show opening.Â Contact Ray directly through his blog if you are interested.